Before the final leg begins, Phil, like us, reflects on the fact that despite starting with a lot of promising teams, we somehow got down to a pair of bland nobodies, two irritating douchebags, an epic train wreck of a team, and a very nice couple that stands no chance. Unlike us, Phil tries to pretend that this is a good thing.
As has been customary for most of the history of the Race, all the teams are bunched for the final flight to avoid a scenario where a team in Alaska finds out by mail that the first-place team has already gotten to the Pit Stop in New York. The teams are not nearly as surprised as last time to find out that Mike and Rochelle made it into the Final Four, and they certainly do a better job of hiding their displeasure. They all make their way to Dallas, and then take taxis to AT&T Stadium, also known as “the only place in America where you can get someone to applaud Jerry Jones.” Crucially, Mike and Rochelle let their taxi go, although someone was clearly falling down on the job because there’s no footage of what was said between the team and the driver.
The boys all take this for their respective teams, and they get outfitted in Cowboys uniforms and promptly arrested for drug possession. No, wait. That was the 90s Cowboys. They then get dragged to the top of Jerry Jones’ enormous penis extension…er, scoreboard…and handed a playbook with what must be two plays: “Run down there, turn around and catch the ball,” and “Kick the ball through the goalposts”. Everyone must do first one, then the other.
Tyler finishes his catch-and-kick well before any other team, but it turns out that his driver doesn’t know where the next destination (the P2 Ranch) actually is. Blair and Hayley make it out next, and their driver knows, but Blair and Hayley decide they’re not going to move as long as Laura and Tyler are planning to follow them. And Blair and Hayley have honed their “being stubborn to the point of near-idiocy” skills over eleven grueling legs with each other, so you know Laura and Tyler don’t stand a chance.
Mike and Rochelle get out of their Roadblock, but they explain their taxi was unwilling to stay (again, wouldn’t it have been nice to have seen this exchange, given that it was vitally important to the fate of a team?) and they have to look for one on foot. Jenny and Jelani get out last, but their arrival prompts an end to the taxi logjam and everyone goes to the ranch.
There, they find out that the task involves being upright on horses while actual competent cowboys do all the real work of rounding up longhorn cattle. Which on the one hand, yes, I’m sure there are some liability issues involved in having pairs of unskilled amateurs attempt to round up 2000-pound walking walls of meat with goring attachments longer than a man’s arm, but if they’re not going to actually do anything but hang out on a horse, why not design something more interesting?
Mike and Rochelle find a taxi, which runs out of gas three miles away from the ranch. It’s about here that you get the feeling that there may not be a storybook ending to this one.
Everyone participates in the Greenhorn Round-Up, and Jenny accomplishes the feat of actually making it look fairly dangerous by taking a spill from her horse that looks for a moment like it might go very badly. Thankfully, she is unhurt and able to get back onto her horse to continue pretending to herd cattle.
Hayley and Blair are present for their cattle drive first, and get a clue to head to Reunion Tower. Jelani and Jenny come out in second, Laura and Tyler in third. Mike and Rochelle get to the ranch and find Phil waiting for them, which means that yes, it’s time for their last round-up. They accept it with good grace, because for all that they really were not the best of Racers, they were definitely the nicest and most loving couple on the series and you knew they wouldn’t care what happened so long as they did it together.
Blair and Hayley get to the tower, and irony puts on its cape and mask and prepares to strike for great justice. Because after a full Race of Blair blowing off everything Hayley says, and after a full Race of Hayley screaming at him to just pay some goddamn attention to the things she says because she’s always right, Hayley goes up to the top of the building for her Roadblock (rappelling down while looking for the next clue) and rushes through it, seizing on a random thing that she thinks may be a clue box at the top of a parking garage instead of the eight yellow-and-red flags in a nearby field as the clue. And Blair listens. The two of them go haring off in completely the wrong direction, leaving as the next two teams show up.
Laura and Jenny rappel, deciding to share information on the not-unreasonable assumption that Blair and Hayley may already be wherever the clue is and there’s no point in racing for second and third. Laura almost falls for the red and yellow poles on the garage as well, but Jenny sets her straight. Meanwhile, Hayley and Blair get to the poles, find out they’re not what Hayley thought they were, and turn around and go back. Irony vanishes into the night, cackling.
Laura and Tyler get to the final challenge, and find out that it begins with a monster truck drive across a muddy bog. Tyler is instantly in Dudebro Heaven. They cross the bog and find a locked chest, with a combination set to the leg number of four destinations. Yep, it’s the Amazing Race Final Leg Memory Challenge! And as it turns out, Laura and Tyler aren’t so great at remembering which leg is which.
Blair and Hayley get back to the tower and redo the rappel. Hayley gets it right this time, but both of them know that it’s too little, too late. With the pressure off, though, they actually act decently about it; Hayley apologizes for screwing up and costing them the million, and Blair tells her that it’s okay and she shouldn’t blame herself for one little mistake. I’m going to unironically say it: Good for both of them.
Jelani and Jenny get to their locker in second, but solve it first, to find…all their selfies, waiting for the teams to arrange them in chronological order. That’s right, the selfie cameras weren’t just a random and annoying gimmick after all! They were the Chekhov’s gun of the Race, and they just went off. (Presumably there were requirements we weren’t told about regarding a minimum number of mandatory selfies, or a team like me would have been out of there in two minutes flat.) Jelani and Jenny begin arranging their selfies as Laura and Tyler finally crack the combination.
Laura and Tyler call over “Big Don, Monster Trucker/Judge”, which has to be the single best caption in Amazing Race history, but they made a mistake. Unfortunately for my enjoyment of this episode, it was a small one and they fix it before Blair and Hayley even make it across the bog. Big Don gives them the thumbs up, because apparently he recognizes what order they took all their selfies in for the entire Race. Perhaps he was with them, all along? (“But Big Don, Monster Trucker/Judge, why is it that during the hardest parts of the Race, there were only one set of footprints?” “Because, my children. It was then that I carried you.”) They head towards Continental Avenue Bridge and the Finish Line.
Jelani and Jenny make it out not long after Laura and Tyler, but it’s too late. The most annoying, self-absorbed, smug twerps in the entire group of Racers hit the Finish Line first and are declared the official winners of the Amazing Race. Because success does not always accrue to the deserving and the world is not always fair. (In case I’m not making it clear: I did not love this outcome.)
Jelani and Jenny come in second, and much later, Blair and Hayley come in third. They find a little grace in defeat that they never had as Racers, and everyone gathers together for what is almost always the best moment of every Race…they all share their experiences, and exult in the unique bond that they will always have with one another. Across the world in 21 days, Racing as partners and opponents and allies and friends. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and in that moment they all know something that nobody else in the world will know about each other and about themselves. It is, truly, just a little magic.
(Except for that one time in Season 16 where Bent and Caite used it as an excuse to whine about Carol and Brandy being mean to them. Let’s forget that one, shall we?)
Thankfully, this is not the last Amazing Race; Season 27 has been greenlit, so this gimmick and the victory of Laura and Tyler did not destroy the series once and for all. I would be interested in knowing if people would like me to do this again, come September; I know it’s kind of sucked up a bit of the air from the blog, but I also know that some people have enjoyed the TVwoP retro-ness of it all. Feel free to express your thoughts on that, on this episode, and on the season as a whole in the comments!